Future Nostalgia

1911 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map of UC Berkeley

Last week after class I went to hunt down the ruins of the observatory here on campus. One of the assignments in Introduction to Archaeology was for the students to use a 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of campus and use pedestrian survey to assess which buildings were still visible on campus. It’s a fun assignment and actually gets the students to open their eyes to the landscape that they blearily traverse each day. I’m guilty of the same–I had never checked out the ruins as they weren’t on my usual path up Strawberry Creek to the east side of campus.

It was a sunny day in Berkeley, but the shadows of the huge Eucalyptus trees were still knife-edged, cold. I wrapped my scarf around my neck, walked up to North Gate, wound between the trees, and tramped up one of the small hills on campus to where a corner of the wooden building stood in a tangle of ivy and low trees. No wonder so many of the students failed to find it on the map.

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I kicked around the few empty 40s that were laying about, then headed back to my office. Louis Armstrong’s Dream a Little Dream came on my shuffle, which was a strange and lovely fugue from the usual punk rock and miscellaneous electronica. Steam was billowing out of the street grates and the London Plane trees were still muscular and bare, twisting up at the campanile.

I might actually miss this place when I move.

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